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Center hosts first-ever Israel Studies conference for undergraduate students

Photo for Center hosts first-ever Israel Studies

Winners of the best presentation and best paper awards with Center Director Yoram Cohen and Postdoctoral Fellow and Program Chair Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

The Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies provided a unique forum for undergraduates to showcase their research on a diverse array of subjects related to Israel.

UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, June 7, 2018 - On Sunday, the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies hosted its inaugural Undergraduate Scholars Conference in Israel Studies. This first-of-its-kind opportunity in the United States for undergraduate students to share their research on Israel featured presentations by fifteen young scholars from universities across the state.

“What we saw yesterday was the next generation of Israel Studies scholars,” said Professor Yoram Cohen, director of the Y&S Nazarian Center and a distinguished professor at UCLA. “These students brought both passion and academic rigor to their research that is wonderful to see and extremely promising for the field as a whole.”

The theme of the conference – “Back to the Future: Israel at 70” – provided opportunities for students from different disciplines and universities throughout California to present their research on Israel. Panels focused on issues ranging from the economy and identity to Israel’s role in the world and Jewish-Arab relations.

“The diversity of the themes covered in the conference speaks to the depth and breadth of Israel Studies as an academic field,” underscored Professor Cohen. “Through our activities – including this conference – the Center is able to encourage and facilitate this nuanced exploration of Israel’s many facets at UCLA and beyond.”

Several of the participants also submitted papers on the research they presented at the conference. Recognition and monetary awards were given to the three best presenters and the authors of the top two papers.

“My peer's presentations were all very impressive, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet like-minded students from the area,” said Nathan Glovinsky, winner of the award for best paper and a history major at UCLA. “Every topic was so different from one another, and I left the conference with new perspectives, questions, and interests.”

“I'm really glad that I participated and am thankful that the Nazarian Center provided undergraduate students with an opportunity to present original research,” said Nathan, who presented on films used to recruit Jewish settlers to come to the Holy Land in the pre-state period.

The audience at the conference included students, family members and faculty who have taught Israel Studies courses at UCLA sponsored by the Center - and which some of the student presenters have taken.

“Seeing my students go from the classroom to a conference panel is really amazing,” said Dr. Shaiel Ben-Ephraim, the Y&S Nazarian Center’s postdoctoral fellow, conference program chair, and instructor of the Spring 2018 course, Modern Israel: Politics, Society, Culture.

“Whether my students who participated in the conference pursue an academic career or not,” he added, “seeing the development of their critical thinking skills more generally – which are on full display during a presentation – serves as a powerful reminder of why I love teaching, and these skills will serve them well no matter what future path they choose.”


Abstracts, PowerPoints and presentation audio for all the conference participants can be found here.

Awards for Best Papers

First Place:

Nathan Glovinsky - Visual Recruitment: The Use of Film in the Pre-State Enterprise

Second Place:

Vincenzo Caporale - Modernization and Economic Integration: Arab Christians in the Israeli Economy


Awards for Best Presentations

First Place:

Mohamad Batal - Shifting Priorities? The Changing Landscape of Israeli Constitutionalism

Second Place:

Susan Bean - Urban Agriculture in Israel

Jael Espinoza - Evolving Druze Identity in Israeli Society